The Fast-Growing Meat Goat You Won’t Ever Have To Feed

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The Fast-Growing Meat Goat You Won’t Ever Have To Feed

Image source: Turkey Nob Goat Farm

We homesteaders usually go for the Boers, Nubians and Spanish breeds when choosing the type of meat goats to raise. These varieties deliver the bulk and poundage we want when it’s time to sell them or use for our own consumption.

But we also know the challenges of keeping them healthy. Rising feed prices and veterinary costs, the need for green pastures, plus the special care required during kidding season – these all add up to the daily demands of keeping our herds happy.

The past decade in America, though, saw the increasing popularity of a lesser-known breed: the Kikos.

Kiko goats are originally from New Zealand, bred in the late 1970s by Garrick and Anne Batten. The Battens cross-bred feral does with domesticated dairy bucks of Anglo-Nubian, Saanen and Toggenburg varieties. They wanted to develop indigenous goats that were more muscular and productive, for purposes of commercial meat production. They aimed for four key qualities:   hardiness, survivability, rapid growth rate and minimum input from growers. After four generations of controlled breeding and rigorous culling, they established the Kiko breed in the late 80s. The breed came to be known as the “go anywhere, eat anything” goat because of its exceptional ability to thrive in less-than-ideal environments. In 1995, Kikos were brought to the United States and have since elicited a growing interest among goat enthusiasts and meat producers.

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Kikos are large-framed goats, lean but athletic in appearance. They’re usually all white or cream in color, but also can come in darker colors of camel, brown and black. They have short, slick hair in warm, sunny climate, but can grow thick flowing hair when ranged at high altitudes in the winter. They have erect ears and the bucks grow long, narrow horns if not disbudded.

If you’re looking to expand your livestock with little or no additional expense, Kikos would be your best choice. They can grow alongside cows and sheep without competing for pasture. That’s because Kikos are foragers — they will go for weeds on brush and ignore your cattle’s preferred grass. That’s what makes them excellent brush cleaners. With plenty of acreage, they will thrive and basically take care of themselves if there’s a good variety of plants. The American Kiko Goat Association (AKGA) says many ranchers note an increase in available grasses for their cattle after two to three years of running Kikos on their operations, because most of the undesirable and invasive plant species have been mowed. [1]

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While I totally adore the sweet, docile temperament of my Boers, I’m wary of and constantly having to address their susceptibility to disease. In our warm, humid climate, I have to annually battle the threat of parasitic infestation, respiratory problems and hoof rot, particularly during the rainy season. (Had I learned about Kikos earlier, and if they were easily available in our area, I would’ve chosen them first.)

Terry Hankins, who raises Kikos at Egypt Creek Ranch in Mississippi, says the breed thrives best in the Southeast, Midwest and the Deep South where there’s up to 50-60 inches of rain annually. Not surprising, since Kikos were developed in New Zealand, where annual rainfall can run up to 100 inches. [2] Whereas Boers were developed in South Africa, where no more than 20 inches of rain is experienced.

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Richard Johnson and Mia Nelson of Lookout Point Ranch in Lowell, Ore., give their Kikos only minimal supervision beyond the basic record-keeping. They provide no barns, no supplemental feed, no hoof trimming, no worming, not even any vaccinations. They supply only mineral supplements and protection from predators.

But the defining characteristic of Kikos, say enthusiasts, is their impressive growth rate. Although the breed doesn’t grow as large as other meat goats, they are known to grow and reach market weight faster than their counterparts.

Another outstanding quality is their kids’ survivability. Dams are not only prolific – able to produce at least twins each year – but they also have excellent maternal instincts. They deliver without assistance and quickly clean their newborns, staying by their side for the first 24 to 48 hours. Kids are known to be active and vigorous at birth. They’re normally up and suckling within 10 minutes of birth.

In 2004, a study conducted at Tennessee State University showed that Kikos weaned more pounds of kid per doe as compared with Boers. [3] Nevertheless, Boers are still preferred by buyers at many barn sales. Size, looks and gentleness still seem to matter most to them, I guess.  For this purpose, many breeders opt to cross a Boer buck with Kiko does. The resulting hybrids are vigorous and show the best characteristics of both breeds.

[1] http://www.kikogoats.com/index.php/why-kikos/
[2]  egyptcreekranch.com/pdf/articles/Kikos%20vs%20Boers.pdf
[3]  https://articles.extension.org/pages/19288/goat-breeds-kiko

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Getting Goats? Here’s 17 Items You Better Consider Buying

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

“Dear Aunt Kathy,” my niece wrote, “my husband and I are readying ourselves to get some goats.  Can you help me come up with a list of basic supplies we need before we bring them home?”

Those are excellent questions for anyone preparing to acquire goats, and I immediately began compiling a list of supplies I would recommend for new and prospective goat owners.  Here is what I came up with. All total, it is 17 items to consider.

As with any livestock or pet, infrastructure is a key component to the safety, comfort, protection and ease of operation. You will need a shelter, fencing and gates. The importance of adequate infrastructure cannot be overstated—so much so that each of those three areas is a stand-alone topic. For purposes of this list, I will proceed upon the assumption that you will have already set up adequate ways to provide these crucial basics.

Next in line of importance is veterinary care. It is a wise idea to get set up with a veterinarian ahead of time. Many areas of the country have a shortage of livestock veterinarians. Goats are pretty hardy and you may not ever need to call the vet, but an emergency situation is no time to be calling around and reaching only dead ends that are not accepting new patients.

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Make sure they are a 24-hour practice and will come out to the farm when you need them. If your goat is in crisis at 2 in the morning, it might be too late by the time the office opens at 8.

Large animal veterinarians in my area charge around $50 to pull into the driveway and about a dollar for each minute thereafter. Avoid sticker shock by asking beforehand. It is a good idea to find a vet who will work in a partnership for your goats’ health and is willing to teach you best practices along the way. Look for someone who will treat your animals with care, explain what you need to know, show you the best ways to treat and prevent future problems, and have an honest conversation about the prognosis.

Getting Goats? Here's 17 Items You Better Consider Buying

Image source: Pixabay.com

Once the big picture essentials are taken care of, it is time to move on to the smaller stuff. First, I recommend a milk stand. It is a big investment, but one good quality stand will probably last your goats’ lifetime and beyond, and will save you countless headaches and frustration. You can either buy a heavy-duty metal model, or build a wooden one yourself using directions you can find online. Even if you know for sure that your goats will never be dairy animals, a milk stand enables one person working alone to sufficiently control a goat in order to prevent injury to either party. Trimming hooves, grooming coats, administering shots or medications, or examining for injuries or illness is much easier with the animal secured on a platform.

You will need to provide your goats with water, hay, grain and supplements. Honestly, you can get by with a dog dish for daily grain rations and an old drywall spackling bucket for water, shared between five kid goats. But a few proper supplies will make your goat-owning life a lot easier:

  • Hook-over wall feeders. Square feeders with backs that lop over and hang on a horizontal 2×4; they are great for feed and supplements. They can be easily moved around, gathered up between feedings to keep them clean, and given an occasional scrubbing. They can be found at most farm supply stores in two or three sizes. The smallest one is just right for goat rations.
  • Flat back water buckets and special hooks designed for hanging buckets are great. They can be hung on the wall high enough to minimize mess, and are hard for the goats to knock over and empty. Farm supply stores and catalogs offer them in a variety of sizes and fun colors.
  • Hay feeders are a big plus. Feeding hay from the floor is never a good idea, as it can introduce parasites, and goats do not like it anyway. They will nibble at the choicest morsels and make a mess of the rest, and will absolutely not eat hay which has been soiled. An investment in one or two good quality metal hook-over hay feeders will save you aggravation and money.

Other hay feeder possibilities include homemade wooden types, customized plastic barrels, and other clever contraptions. Whatever your design, ensure that the goats can get into it enough to nose around and grab the perfect bites, will not get their head or horns stuck in it, and cannot jump in and either hurt themselves or ruin the hay.

You will need some supplies for hoof trimming. Scissors or trimmers and a rasp are all you need. The former is available from goat supply retailers, and the latter can be found at any hardware store.

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Grooming needs are basic, but you may need to try more than one type of tool before you find just the right one for your goat’s coat. Some breeds do well with an inexpensive rubber tack brush designed for horses, and others have undercoats which are well-served with brushes designed for long-haired dogs.

Getting Goats? Here's 17 Items You Better Consider Buying

Image source: Pixabay.com

You will need to keep a goat medicine cabinet available. There are a few items you should have right at the start, and always keep on hand. If your goat is sick, a call to the vet or an online search will likely direct you to one or more of these items.

  • Rectal thermometer. As with humans, body temperature is often an indicator of something wrong. Use lubricant to make the event easier on everyone—either a tube of specialty stuff for goat birthing, or whatever you have on hand. Household petroleum jelly is fine, but just make sure to scoop some out before using it on goats, to avoid the risk of double-dipping. Use disposable gloves if it makes you feel better.
  • Goat bloat treatment. Goat stomachs can go a little crazy on a sudden change of diet, and a bloat situation can become a crisis very quickly. Have a bottle of remedy on hand just in case, sold commercially at goat supply stores everywhere. Pepto-Bismol or baking soda are often recommended for goat belly aches, too.
  • Pro-biotic paste. This is a gel packed with vitamins and nutrients, and is a great pick-me-up for multiple maladies. It comes in a tube with clear directions on the label, is inexpensive, and found just about everywhere goat supplies are found.
  • Other medications will inevitably creep into your cabinet as time passes. As afflictions occur, you will purchase supplies to combat parasites, injuries and illnesses.
  • If you plan to administer goat shots yourself, you will need syringes and needles. Farm stores and catalog retailers sell them inexpensively enough that it makes sense to keep a handful in stock. Needle sizes vary, but 20 gauge or 22 gauge work well for most goat vaccines.
  • The most frequently used maintenance vaccine for goats is something called CD/T. You can find it at your farm store without a prescription, but it should be kept in the refrigerator, so you may have to ask for it. This guards against an overeating disease and tetanus.

Your goats will need bedding—straw is best, but they like wooden platforms as well—along with hay and grain to eat. Free-choice minerals and any other supplements recommended by the goat seller are good to have on hand as well.

Miscellaneous collars, leads and harnesses are fun and useful, but not essential. Breakaway collars—the type made of plastic chains that will break if the goat gets stuck somewhere—are often preferred for goats who are allowed a lot of free-range browse area.

If you intend to use a specific kind of training—such as clicker training, for example—have the training aids you need to begin on day one.

Insect control is important in some situations. Spray-on treatment from your farm store, or food-grade diatomaceous earth, can often make a difference.

Acquiring this list of basic supplies before your goats come home will help make the transition go smoothly and minimize stress for all involved, and can get you set up to enjoy your goats for years to come.

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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How To Feed Your Goats During Winter Without Going Broke

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How To Feed Your Goats During Winter Without Going Broke

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The nutritional needs of goats will increase dramatically over the next several months, and addressing these needs is paramount for a successful kidding season. But meeting a herd’s nutritional requirements during the winter months can quickly break the bank if you’re not careful. Knowledge (and a little preparation) is key in preparing to meet your goats’ needs for protein, energy, vitamins and minerals and water.

Stockpiling Pastures

One way to cut down on winter feeding costs is to stockpile pasture. “Stockpiling is the practice of saving certain hay or pasture fields for grazing in the fall and winter after forage growth has stopped due to cold weather.” (1)

It isn’t always an option to have a field sit unused for winter grazing, but if you have the land, it can help save you money on winter feed. Additionally, grazing your goats on the pasture, spreading manure, can save you the time of having to manure in the spring. “Perennial grasses such as timothy, tall fescue and bluegrass have been traditionally used for stockpile grazing.” (2)

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You will need to manage your animals on the stockpiled pastures just like you do on your other fields during the summer. Watch that your herd doesn’t overgraze or trample the field. Maintain a holding area to keep animals in at least part-time when the fields are extremely muddy to prevent them from ruining the field. Or, rotate your animals to other stockpiled fields. Also, keep in mind that the nutrient quality of stockpiled pastures decreases the deeper into winter you get. In snowy regions, stockpiled pastures tend to last until about December, depending on the type of grass grown. Watch your herd and be prepared to begin supplementing as needed.

Supplementing With Hay, Concentrate and Mineral Salt

How To Feed Your Goats During Winter Without Going Broke

Image source: Pixabay.com

Goats do well on most hays that are considered “horse hay.” As long as the goats are acclimated to them appropriately to avoid stomach upset and founder, “legume hays such as alfalfa, clover, vetch, soybean or lespedeza work very well for kids, as well as pregnant and lactating does.” (3)

When you select hay, open a bale up and look at the color. It should be bright green. Depending on how the hay was stored, it may have turned yellow around the edges, but as long as it’s green in the center, it should be fine. Check for heat, which signals fermentation (not a good thing). Look for extraneous matter like rocks, baling wires or twine, excessive weeds or other items. It’s best to avoid poorer quality hay. Also, be sure to check if there are poisonous weeds in the bale. Avoid hay that shows mold, dust, or discoloration. Don’t buy hay that smells sour or musty. Hay prices continue to rise, but by being selective, you can ensure your herd receives the hay with the highest nutritional quality, a less expensive option in the long run than poorer quality hay and unhealthy animals. If you have to cut corners, save your highest quality hay for your gestating does, as their systems will need the biggest boost.

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A 14 to 18 percent protein concentrate should be fed to lactating does as well. Make sure the feed comes from a clean source and shows no signs of mold or spoilage. Additionally, check your does periodically to ensure they are not too fat or too thin. Being overweight can lead to kidding issues (like pregnancy toxemia). You will also want to offer trace minerals. “In general, the less expensive the mineral, the lower the availability of important trace minerals” (4) There are multiple ways to offer trace minerals to your herd; use a method that keeps the minerals off the ground and preferably protected from excessive rain (so you don’t waste money on minerals washing away).

Ensuring Adequate Water Availability

It is essential that your herd has access to plenty of water. During the winter months, freezing water troughs and pipes can cause quite a headache. I’ve written an article here on a number of great options for keeping water unfrozen and available even during the coldest days of the year.

Culling Your Herd

One way to cut down on feed costs during winter is to downsize your herd before you have to start supplementing with hay. Sell your inferior animals. Cull goats that are more susceptible to worms or other health issues or who struggle with maintaining good body condition. Cull does that don’t kid easily and/or have difficulty providing adequate milk for their offspring. Cull does that struggle with fertility. If you are butchering some of your own stock, choose a date before you have to start supplementing. Keep your best animals through the winter and start your herd out fresh in the spring.

Getting your herd through winter can be challenging at times, but by stockpiling, choosing the highest quality supplements and using them judicially, and by culling surplus stock, you can take good care of your herd without stretching your budget too far.

What advice would you add for taking care of goats during winter? Share your advice in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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